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Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway speaks to the media while entering Trump Tower on Nov. 14, 2016 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)

Conway rolls out new defense for Trump's frequent falsehoods

02/08/17 10:07AM

During the Bush/Cheney era, when the war in Iraq intensified, reporters would routinely ask the White House for explanations for the parts of Iraq descending into chaos. The Bush administration tried to focus on the positives, effectively arguing, "What about the areas in Iraq that aren't on fire?"

During Herman Cain's presidential campaign, the Republican was confronted with allegations of sexual harassment, which used to be the sort of thing that hurt candidates for national office. Cain responded at the time by effectively asking, "What about the women I knew who haven't accused me of misconduct?"

And yesterday, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN where she tried to defend her boss' problems with the truth by effectively arguing, "What about the things Trump says that aren't brazen lies?"
CNN's Jake Tapper asked Conway repeatedly about President Donald Trump's attacks on the press and spreading of misinformation. In response, she asked if those falsehoods should matter as much as what Trump does say and do correctly.

"How about the President's statements that are false?" Tapper asked at one point. "I'm talking about the President of the United States saying things that are not true, demonstrably not true. That is important."

"Are they more important than the many things that he says that are true that are making a difference in people's lives?" Conway asked in response.
This is not a good argument. Conway, a senior aide in Trump's White House, didn't even try to make the case that the president is always truthful -- there are some claims even she won't make -- instead arguing that some of the things Trump says "are true."

By this standard, so long as the president keeps his uncontrollable lying to 49% of his overall rhetoric, we're apparently supposed to think the problem isn't that bad.
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A police car with lights ablaze responds to a call. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

There's a reason Trump keeps lying about the U.S. murder rate

02/08/17 09:20AM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump routinely told voters that we have "the highest murder rate in the United States in 45 years," but "they don't want to talk about it." In reality, "they" don't talk about it because the observation isn't true.

In fact, the more Trump made the claim, the more obvious it became he had no idea what he was talking about. As the Republican was reminded many times, the murder rate is roughly at a 50-year low, not a 45-year high.

And yet, as the Washington Post reported, the president just can't help himself. It's almost as if this lie is some kind of nervous tic Trump can't control.
President Trump met Tuesday morning with a group of sheriffs from the National Sheriffs Association, a group that consists of more than 3,000 sheriffs from around the country. And to this sworn group of law enforcement veterans, with reporters taking notes, he again repeated a falsehood about the murder rate in America.

Trump told the sheriffs, "the murder rate in our country is the highest it's been in 47 years." He blamed the news media for not publicizing this development, then added, "But the murder rate is the highest it's been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years. [...] I'd say that in a speech [during the campaign] and everybody was surprised."
We were surprised because it's not true. In terms of the evidence, Trump has this exactly backwards. The president who boasted the other day about his skills as a leader who calls his own shots, "largely based on an accumulation of data," seems incapable of understanding basic and straightforward crime figures.

Kellyanne Conway, asked to explain her boss' repeated lies on the matter, said yesterday, "I don't know who gave him that data."

Maybe it was the Frederick Douglass character Trump keeps hearing good things about.

All joking aside, the broader point here goes beyond the president's incessant lying about the U.S. murder rate. The larger significance has to do with why he's so fond of this specific falsehood.
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President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump (L) meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at The Capitol Building on Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)

Despite the evidence, Ryan says Trump 'respects' judicial process

02/08/17 08:42AM

After Donald Trump's Muslim ban was put on hold by the courts, the president threw a bit of an online tantrum, lashing out at the "so-called judge" -- a Bush/Cheney appointee -- who stopped the implementation of the controversial policy.

This highly unusual attack on the judiciary struck many as alarming, but as TPM reports, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) believes we have nothing to worry about. Trump, the Republican leader insisted, "respects" the process.
Asked on Tuesday about President Donald Trump's attacks on the "so-called judge" who blocked his immigration executive order nationwide, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the President.

Despite the insults, Trump was respecting the appeals process, Ryan said at his weekly press conference.
"Look, I know he's an unconventional president," Ryan told reporters. "He gets frustrated with judges, we get frustrated with judges. But he's respecting the process, and that's what counts at the end of the day." The House Speaker also emphasized that the Trump administration "is honoring the ruling."

That's not necessarily the sort of thing a politician feels the need to highlight. The alternative is a White House that ignores court rulings and acts outside the rule of law.

But I was struck by Ryan's assertion that Trump is "respecting the process." Isn't the evidence to the contrary overwhelming?
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Image: Elizabeth Warren

Warren silenced by Senate GOP during fight over Sessions

02/08/17 08:00AM

Senate Democrats hoped to generate some attention for their fight against Sen Jeff Sessions' (R-Ala.) attorney general nomination with a straightforward spectacle: they'd hold the Senate floor all night, taking turns making their case against the far-right Alabaman.

The spectacle ended up making headlines, but in an unexpected twist, it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who helped put the spotlight on the Democratic effort.
Senate Republicans voted to silence the Democrats' Elizabeth Warren after she read from a letter by the widow of Martin Luther King that criticized the civil rights record of Trump's nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The debate on the confirmation of Sen. Sessions came to a screeching but temporary halt Tuesday night when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, objected to a speech that the Massachusetts Democrat was giving.
By all appearances, Warren wasn't trying to do anything especially provocative. The Massachusetts Democrat was quoting a letter Coretta Scott King sent to the Senate 30 years ago, speaking out against Sessions' judicial nomination, which was ultimately defeated because of his record on civil rights. Had Warren been allowed to continue, it's likely her remarks wouldn't have been noticed by much of the public.

But McConnell intervened, taking the very unusual step of shutting down a senator's remarks and silencing her. Following a 49-43 vote, which fell along partisan lines, Warren was admonished and told she could no longer participate for the remainder of the debate of the Sessions nomination.

Apparently, according to the GOP leader, reading the letter from Martin Luther King's widow was, in effect, too mean. McConnell pointed to Rule XIX, which says senators cannot "directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator."

In other words, Coretta Scott King's concerns about Sessions' record 30 years ago might hurt Sessions' feelings, so, in the interest of maintaining decorum in the chamber, Republicans felt compelled to shut Warren down. Of all the things McConnell could've chosen to pounce on, he chose concerns about Sessions, race, and civil rights from MLK's widow.
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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 2.7.17

02/07/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Afghanistan: "At least 21 people were killed Tuesday in Kabul when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a gate at the Afghan Supreme Court, authorities said. Ministry of Public Health spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said nine women were among the victims. The 41 wounded included nine women and two children, he said."

* Big day for the White House's Muslim ban: "A federal appeals court on the West Coast will hear oral arguments Tuesday afternoon that could keep a hold on travel restrictions created by President Donald Trump on foreigners from seven countries."

* Elections have consequences: "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, paving the way for construction of the final mile and a half of the more than 1,700-mile pipeline."

* Paul Ryan and I may define "respect" differently: "Asked on Tuesday about President Donald Trump's attacks on the 'so-called judge' who blocked his immigration executive order nationwide, House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the President. Despite the insults, Trump was respecting the appeals process, Ryan said at his weekly press conference."

* DHS: " The head of Homeland Security defended President Donald Trump's immigration order but said he erred in not telling lawmakers about it before it went into effect."

* This is not a good argument: "Republican Sen. Deb Fischer, who voted to confirm to Betsy DeVos as the secretary of education Tuesday, said DeVos will need to be exposed to public schools to see how successful they are in educating children."

* Trump's belligerence is affecting Iranian politics: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that "he considers the opening weeks of Trump's administration to be a revelation of America's true character, and was grateful for how it made plain impulses that have typically laid beneath the surface of American policy."
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GOP makes history confirming Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

02/07/17 02:09PM

About a year ago, then-candidate Donald Trump assured voters, "I am self-funding and will hire the best people, not the biggest donors!" Of course, in reality, the Republican was not self-funding, and as of this afternoon, the rest of the vow is falling apart, too.
By the narrowest of margins, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Betsy DeVos to be the nation's new education secretary.

A 50-50 deadlock over her confirmation was broken by Vice President Mike Pence who became the first vice president ever to cast a tie-breaking vote for a cabinet nominee.

The vote to confirm DeVos came after Senate Democrats staged an all-night Senate talkathon Monday evening, a tactic to draw attention to their opposition to the Michigan billionaire who has no experience working, attending or volunteering at a public school.
Every Senate Democrat voted against DeVos, and they were joined by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Opponents of the nomination needed just one more no vote, but despite intense public pressure, every other Senate Republican -- including many who personally received contributions in years past from the GOP megadonor -- backed Trump's choice to lead the Department of Education.

DeVos received more opposition than any education secretary in history -- the previous record was 40, which Obama's final education secretary, John King, received -- and this was the first time in Senate history a vice presidential vote was necessary to break a tie.

Today's vote also clears the way for each of Trump's cabinet nominees to be confirmed -- because if Senate Republicans are willing to vote for Betsy DeVos, they'll vote for just about anyone.
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Xi Jinping

China is eager to capitalize on Trump's early missteps

02/07/17 12:43PM

It wasn't exactly a secret that President Obama often saw international affairs through a specific lens: there was a race underway for 21st-century primacy, and Obama was determined to make sure the United States remained well positioned in a competition against Beijing.

For Obama, U.S. trade policy was focused on countering China. U.S. policy in the arctic was about China. U.S. policy in the Caribbean was heavily influenced by China. U.S. policy towards India came against a backdrop of Chinese interest in the region.

With this in mind, it seems China, for entirely self-interested reasons, is delighted with many of Donald Trump's early moves. CNBC reported yesterday that the new president's antagonism towards Mexico "could make it easier for China to become the country's -- and Latin America's -- top trade partner."
"The U.S. trade tensions with Mexico are putting the Mexican government on overdrive trying to find new export markets," said Sean Miner, fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, who noted that 80 percent of Mexican exports go to the U.S. "Recently, China and Mexico have become closer. Clearly this is a consequence of the rising tensions." [...]

Fearing that trade with the U.S. may be restricted by policies implemented by the Trump administration, Mexico has been looking to lessen its economic dependence on its big neighbor to the north. Chinese and Mexican officials met on Dec. 12, pledging to deepen ties between the two countries.
The CNBC report added that China is looking for "a bigger economic beachhead in the Western Hemisphere," and is eyeing other Latin American countries for stronger economic ties: "Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in October that China wants a feasibility study for a free trade agreement with Colombia. If the two countries agree on a deal, Colombia would join Peru, Chile and Costa Rica among Latin American countries that have bilateral trade agreements with China."

There's a lot of this going around, especially after Trump officially killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the delight of officials in Beijing who were eager to see the agreement die.
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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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